Over the past few months, as (in hindsight) I emerged from a cocoon which I had occupied since I left the huge corporation I’d worked for during nigh on seven years, I’ve been able to realise the importance of trust.
Face-to-face, hand-pressing relationships are just as important as they ever were. By meeting someone, touching them, looking closely into their eyes, perceiving their mannerisms, their ways of reacting – even, maybe, their weaknesses – well, we can (I now realise) far better create, engender, distribute and sustain that intangible quality we call trust.
As one of my favourite websites shuts its doors to a more collaborative way of doing politics, unable to have battled successfully against the tide of cruel flotsam which Coalition politicking and austerity values have more and more brought our way, I remember another attempt by a thinker called Paul Evans to do something similar on the cusp of the 2010 general election. His site was called Political Innovation, and it looked to cross political boundaries – much, perhaps, as a wider politics used to do.
But I wonder if all this really has to do with evil neo-liberals, as I suggested above. Maybe they are evil; maybe it’s all a big plan. But equally, it could simply be they’re taking advantage of broader tendencies in society.
If businesspeople, generally hard-nosed individuals, are consistently prepared to travel long distances and spend two days out of four getting to a meeting across the other side of the world, in order (we assume) to feel confident enough in others to strike their deals and reach their important decisions, there has to be some lesson in this we should surely pay a bit of attention to when talking about society in general.
If big biz still cannot altogether get its head round video-conferences, mailing-lists and so forth as primary tools of communication, maybe the reason the rest of us – in our personal relationships, our political discourses, our perceptions of where society is going – find it so difficult to feel confidence, and express trust for those around us, has little or nothing to do with surveillance states, oppressive governance, austerity politics etc … and far more to do with the plain fact that we no longer get to look each other in the eye.
“¡La gran asignatura pendiente!” as the Spanish might say. It’s certainly a lesson and subject we’re finding it difficult to remember, and foreground.
It’s been an expensive few months for me, emerging from my cocoon. But only expensive in money, not mental health.
In mental health, quite the opposite in fact.
And as one commentator now suggests that the British Labour party is in the throes of having a nervous breakdown, it could be time we all considered the very real importance of societal trust … both its importance to our society at the moment, as well as how best to recover it for the future.
I don’t have any answers. Not all of us can spend the time and resource travelling to other cities to show other people we’re not scary beings. It’s a privilege to be able to, yes – and therein the issue and challenge, of course.
But if trust were to be re-engineered and to become the utility it should be, like water, housing, food and so forth – an inalienable right, that is; a resource we should all be able to access, whatever our position in society – then I’m sure we would see things quite differently: we would see them differently; we would act on them differently; we would begin to reconstruct and cross bridges of mutual understanding differently.
There are surely many of us out here who would love such a world, even now.
Does it really have to be beyond our capacity to thread again a better tapestry of sociocultural being?